A fossil discovery of an extinct rat species may provide evidence for early human migration routes and for the location of the Garden of Eden.
Six years ago, I wrote an article about alluvial fan deposits that revealed three epochs (~55,000, 75,000–130,000, and 150,000–160,000 years ago) during which humans could have easily migrated back and forth from the Persian Gulf region and eastern Africa.1 I explained how such an easy migration route accords with a consistent interpretation of all the scientific and biblical data on human origins. A new subfossil find adds evidence for this consistency. I’ll discuss the discovery after a review of the data concerning the timing and location of early humans.
Scientific and Biblical Data on Human Origins
Archaeological artifacts place the origin of humanity in eastern and southern Africa 50,000–90,000 years ago. Similar archaeological artifacts and human remains locate humans in the Levant (region occupied today by Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria) during the same date range. Mitochondrial and y-chromosomal DNA analysis dates the origin of humans at 10,000–300,000 years ago. Evidence for the earliest villages and towns, specialized agriculture and manufacture of household goods, and trade places the origin of civilization in the Persian Gulf region and Mesopotamia about 12,000–13,000 years ago. In addition to archaeological and DNA evidence, Antarctic and Greenland ice cores establish that the last ice age persisted from 12,000 to about 130,000 years ago.
In the date range 45,000–250,000 years ago, scientists lack a radioisotope decay dating method that they can apply to human remains and artifacts. In this date range, they have no recourse but to use dating methods that involve large known and unknown systematic errors. These systematic errors often shift dates to older values. For an explanation of these errors and their expected magnitudes, see Errors in Human Origins Dates.
The biblical accounts of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and of Noah’s flood imply that humans were living in the Persian Gulf region and the environs of Mesopotamia during much of the last ice age.2 Genesis 2 declares that four known rivers (the Euphrates, Tigris, Pishon, and Gihon) flowing from different regions converge in the Garden of Eden. Evidence shows that the only place they come close together is in the southeastern part of what is now the Persian Gulf, presently more than 200 feet below sea level. However, during nearly the entire last ice age this location was above sea level.
Genesis 7 and 8 state that the waters of Noah’s flood quickly rose over a 40-day period and took nearly a year to recede. Such gradual receding would require a huge amount of melting ice and snow to replace the waters flowing out into the ocean. This quantity of ice and snow implies that Noah’s flood occurred at some time during the last ice age.
New Evidence of Easy Migration Routes for Early Humans
In a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, a team of 13 paleontologists and ecologists led by Ignacio Lazagabaster reported on their discovery of subfossils of an extinct subspecies of the eastern African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi maremortum, in the Levant.3 The specific location of the subfossil find was in a cliff cave near the Dead Sea. Previously, fossils of this particular species of rat had only been found in eastern Africa.
The dates for the newly discovered subfossils range from 42,000 to 103,000 years ago and possibly even earlier. As mentioned, measured dates in the range of 45,000–250,000 years ago are subject to potentially large systematic errors.
The discovery of portions of the skeletons of this crested rat species in the Levant establishes that an easy migration route for rodents must have existed between central-eastern Africa and the Levant at various times from 42,000 to 103,000 years ago. If it was easy for rodents to migrate from central-eastern Africa to the Levant, then it would have been even easier for humans to migrate back and forth between the two regions at that time.
The Fertile Crescent, a crescent-shaped, soil-rich region in the Middle East, made for easy human migration between the Levant and the Persian Gulf region. Humans could have migrated virtually continuously between the Levant and the Persian Gulf region during the present interglacial and during the whole of the last ice age.
The discovery of subfossils of the rare crested rat in the Levant establishes that for the earliest humans there were at least two easy migration routes between the Persian Gulf region and eastern Africa. In addition to this Fertile Crescent route, in 2015 I discussed a passage from the Persian Gulf region across southern Arabia, along the Gihon River, and the land bridge that joined southwestern Arabia to eastern Africa.4
During the last ice age (12,000 to 130,000 years ago) humans would have had several opportunities to migrate rapidly back and forth between the Persian Gulf region and eastern Africa. The first migrations likely involved just a few individuals or families, so we should not be surprised at the lack of archaeological and DNA evidence for these first migrations. And yet, given the strong textual clues in Genesis that both the Garden of Eden events and Noah’s flood occurred during an ice age, there is every reason to conclude that the biblical, genetic, paleontological, and archaeological data on human origins and early history is fully compatible and self-consistent.
- Hugh Ross, “Did Arabia Provide a Migration Route for Early Humans?” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), May 28, 2015.
- Hugh Ross, Navigating Genesis (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2014), 72–75, 97–100, 150–152, 158–160.
- Ignacio A. Lazagabaster et al., “Rare Crested Rat Subfossils Unveil Afro-Eurasian Ecological Corridors Synchronous with Early Human Dispersals,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 118, no. 31 (August 3, 2021): e2105719118, doi:10.1073/pnas.2105719118.
- Ross, “Did Arabia Provide a Migration Route.”